Our view

Inventive program promotes walking to school

May 29, 2014 

  • In summary

    Walking school buses help improve student fitness, improve attendance rates and make sure students get to school safely.

Well, the wheels on the bus go round and round. Only sometimes they don’t.

When it’s a walking school bus, it’s just feet going up and down.

Walking school buses are a growing trend in a number of school districts across the nation. As it’s name implies, a walking school bus consists of school children closely grouped and led by an adult, trooping to school in the morning and home in the afternoon.

The only thing missing is the bus.

The concept is supported by both the federal government and a variety of nonprofit agencies. For example, many of the programs across the country are funded by the federal Safe Routes to School program, which pays for infrastructure improvements and initiatives to enable children to walk and bike to school.

Proponents of walking school buses point to a variety of benefits. Walking to and from school helps make kids more fit, fights childhood obesity, improves attendance rates and ensures that children get to school safely.

The experience also builds relationships among students, promotes teamwork and helps children learn how to navigate safely when crossing streets. And some districts have been able to cut school bus routes and save money because of the program.

The program seems ideal for many South Carolina districts. In some northern states, children can walk to school only in the spring and fall, when the weather is warm enough. In South Carolina, students could walk to school throughout most of the year.

South Carolina is the only state in the nation that owns and maintains its own fleet of school buses. And the fleet contains some of the oldest and most decrepit buses in America, many of them castoffs from other states.

That’s another reason for walking school buses. Students wouldn’t have to ride in an outmoded, potentially dangerous bus that is likely to break down at any moment.

Of course the practicality of walking school buses would depend on the route to school. The route would have to be short enough and include walking paths or sidewalks. And children would have to cross only streets where there are stop signs or traffic signals.

But implementing a walking-school-bus program would be a good incentive for communities to add more sidewalks and make sure sidewalks are installed in new housing projects. Making cities more pedestrian-friendly is a smart move under any circumstances.

Walking to and from school always has been a good idea. Walking as a group is an even better one.

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